Award-winning jazz musician and producer George Duke died Monday, August 5th, 2013 in Los Angeles. He was suffering from chronic lymphocytic leukemia and was 67 at the time of his death.
George Duke was an exceptional artist. He collaborated with trailblazing rock musician Frank Zappa, jazz legend Miles Davis, and pop star Michael Jackson, among others. George Duke ventured into numerous musical genres, ranging from fusion, rock and jazz to funk and R&B.
George Duke was born in San Rafael, California, and grew up in Marin City, a working class section of Marin County. He began his piano studies at age seven, learning the roots of Black music in his local Baptist church.
After college, George Duke joined Al Jarreau in forming the house band at the Half Note, the popular San Francisco club, in the late 1960s. He also played with Sonny Rollins and Dexter Gordon in other San Francisco clubs around the same time.
During the late 1960s and 1970s George Duke was a fusion pioneer and formed bands with violinist Jean Luc Ponty and later with drummer Billy Cobham. In the 1980s, George Duke became a very successful producer of R&B and pop albums. His solo albums included fusion, R&B, funk and smooth jazz.
“GRAMMY winner George Duke was a multitalented producer and keyboardist whose sound infused jazz, funk and R&B throughout his 40-year-plus career. His diversity as a musician can be heard on music from Frank Zappa to Michael Jackson, as well as production on albums by Al Jarreau and Dianne Reeves. His immense talent will live on through the hundreds of recordings he’s given the world, and we send our sympathies to his family, friends and all who were touched by his soulful music,” said Neil Portnow, President/CEO of The Recording Academy.
As a composer, George Duke established a reputation for his television and film work with The Five Heartbeats film soundtrack, the title song for the movie Karate Kid III, music for Paramount Pictures movies Leap Of Faith and Meteor Man, and NBC’s Leeza and Marilu daytime talk shows.
George Duke’s most recent album, DreamWeaver, came out last month, July 2013. He called it his “most honest album in several years.” The recording of DreamWeaver took place after his wife, Corine, passed away.
George Duke with Frank Zappa:
A visit to George Duke’s studio